At the beginning of January the RAF’s oldest fighter squadron said goodbye to the freezing fog of Lincolnshire and deployed to the Middle East for Ex Shaheen Star. Taking over the well established Typhoon detachment at Al Minhad in the UAE from 1 Squadron, 3(F) Squadron were able to achieve a number of training objectives while building on the already strong ties with the UAE Air Force.

Thanks must go to the various Regiment sections of RAF East Anglia for the invaluable training they provided us prior to going to the various ‘major tourist’ destinations of the Middle East.

The busy detachment included the full spectrum of Typhoon multi-role capabilities. In the air-to-air environment the Squadron conducted large force element training with up to 30 aircraft from 4 different nations, dissimilar combat training with USAF F15C and F22 Raptor; Badger Fordham in particular provided very valuable air-to-air gunnery training for the F22 pilots.  The Exercise also provided excellent training for the various support elements who attended, particularly Dr TWS and the Physio department.

Close Air Support and Air Interdiction missions also formed a large amount of the schedule with the Squadron dropping 24 live Enhanced Paveway II weapons. In addition to refreshing 3(F) Squadron’s live weapon training these sorties also provided crucial work-up sorties for a number of Army and Royal Marine Joint Terminal Attack Controllers who are soon to deploy to Afghanistan; the carriage hours limitations of the Paveway were fully tested over several transit sorties.  Despite the high tempo OC 3(F) and the XO were also able to fly 2 aircraft to Bahrain to brief Typhoon capabilities to the Bahraini Defence Minister.

An informal Hawaiian themed dining in night was held during the detachment. No one has quite forgotten Rob Thomas’ one piece swim suit, Andrew ‘Fiddy’ Nielson’s impromptu speech or OC 3(F)’s early departure due to a sprain from ‘vodka Frisbee’.  The weekends also allowed the engineers and pilots to enjoy some of the famous sights and go diving or deep sea fishing in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The run up to Christmas and early January also saw a number of new, and some not so new faces joining the Squadron.  Sqn Ldr Ian ‘Squid’ Davies takes up the irreplaceable mantle of OC MSF and has already had his hands full dealing with the latest holding officer, Pilko.  Pilko’s lack of hair and mature outlook on life gave us all the impression that he may be a little more grown up than your average holdie.  Alas, we were all to be proved wrong when he crashed an MT car on his way back from Spadeadam after skidding on ice.

Our very own Michael Buble look alike Alec Palfreyman joins us from 29(R) Sqn along with the latest recruit from the GR4 herd, Jim ‘Badger’ Fordham.  Rob ‘Shampoo’ Sampson and Rayban Chumbawumpa-Smythe complete the influx from 29; both are looking forward to working more than a 6 hour day, whilst being able to fly something other than the simulator.  Andy ‘Chesney’ Hawkes joins from 17(R) Sqn as the new squadron QWI, delighting in seeing his hard work on 17 now delivered on the front-line; Luke Gili-Ross departs 3(F) Sqn in the opposite direction  Sadly, these new arrivals meant we had to say goodbye to Ben ‘2 Dads’ Westoby-Brooks, Marc ‘Josef-Frau’ Wilson and Mike ‘The Jaw’ Mason who have all swelled 29’s numbers to complete the instructor work-up and take a well earned break from the fast lane.

The demanding schedule continues for the next few months as 3(F) Sqn looks to capitalise on the hard work in the Middle East while enjoying some much deserved down time at the forthcoming Squadron dining-in night in April. We are also hoping that all of the aircraft should have had their refuelling probes fixed by then.  Looking further ahead, the Squadron’s centenary year celebrations will culminate in the laying-up of our 75th anniversary Standard near Larkhill on 12 May.

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